Sunday, January 06, 2008

In a modern context nostalgia means sentimentalising a period of the past; mourning a lost immediacy that makes the past unmatchable. Nostalgia obscures the connections between the past and the present; it idealises the past and makes it stand outside time, frozen in unchanging perfection.

'Nostalgia', writes Christopher Lasch, 'invokes the past to bury it alive. It shares with the belief in progress, to which it is only superficially opposed, an eagerness to proclaim the death of the past and to deny history's hold over the present. Lasch has argued that real knowledge of the past requires something more than knowing how people used to make candles or what kind of bed they slept in. It requires a sense of persistence of the past and an understanding of the manifold ways in which it penetrates our lives; this persistence is what nostalgic attitudes deny.

Christopher Lasch (in True and Only Heaven: Progress and its Critics) quoted by
Paul Sinclair (in The Murray: The River and its People)

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